Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tea Brined Pork Chops, Part II

Remove the brined pork chops from the fridge. I like to sear them in a grill pan briefly to add color:

Pour one quart of applesauce into pan (if your jar says "Motts" on the side, it will turn out just fine!):

Lay pork chops on top. Bake to an internal temperature of at least 135. If you work for the FDA feel free to go all the way to 165, but I really don't find it necessary. If you don't have a thermometer handy just cut into one to peek (what you see above is BEFORE they were baked - that pinkness is no good in the final product).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tea Brined Pork Chops, part I

Why brine, you ask? It infuses the meat with flavor, and is something of a guarantee against tasteless shoe leather meat. Works great with turkey as well!

The leading actors: Salt (1/3 Cup), Sugar (1/2 Cup), Loose Decaf tea (scant 1/4 cup) - mix these into 4 cups boiling water.

The supporting actors: ginger, whole cloves, whole allspice, whole peppercorns, onion (fresh or dried). Add to the boiling mixture:

This smells wonderful. Too bad for you this isn't a scratch and sniff blog!
Add a cup or two of apple cider:

When the mixture is cool enough, put the pork chops in plastic bags:

Pour the brine over the pork chops, and refrigerate overnight:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sweet Potato Oven Fries

Did you know that sweet potatoes are very good when you treat them like potatoes? They don't really need the brown sugar or the marshmallows.
These are pretty easy. And these are pretty good. Leftovers were excellent with a buffalo steak tonight!

Peel and chop some sweet potatoes into bite size pieces:

Layer in a plastic bag, sprinkling generously with paprika, salt, black pepper, garlic powder and thyme, and dried onion (or onion powder). How much? I don't know. Just keep sprinkling over each layer.
Add a drizzle of olive oil, seal the bag, and shake it up baby now ... twist and shout. These are actually better if you let them sit in the fridge overnight before baking. (but if you want to bake them right away they'll still be mighty tasty)
Spread on a baking pan and bake at 450. Yes, I said 450. The heat helps them get crispy. Stir every 10-15 minutes. They are finished when soft enough to stab with a fork AND as crispy as you like them. For me that takes 30 -40 minutes.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Orange" Soup

Preheat oven to about 375. Place in a roasting pan:

3 squash, cut in half with seeds removed (I used two butternet and 1 acorn squash), cloves from 1 head of garlic, peeled

Roast until the squash flesh is tender - test by stabbing with the tines of a fork. To avoid shreiks of burning flesh (YOUR burning flesh), allow to cool about an hour before peeling. Set aside cooked, peeled squash.

Chop 1 large onion or a handful of shallots. (onions will suffice if you didn't get shallots from a CSA share) Sautee in a large soup pot with a few tablespoons of butter. Add about 1/2 pound of shredded carrot, and a few stalks of chopped celery. If you did NOT add garlic to the roasting squash, add some minced garlic now.
Add chicken broth or stock - about 4 cans/8 cups. (tip: for a "hurry up" version of this soup, you could also add canned pumpkin - obviously the unsweetened variety - instead of roasting whole squash)

Grate 1 large piece of fresh ginger (2 or 3 inches square). Retain as much of the ginger juice for the soup as possible. Add the squash and ginger to the pot.
Cook for twenty minutes or so, and then blend with your immersion blender. (if you don't have an immersion blender you'll have to allow the mixture to cool enough so you can put it in a regular blender). Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
I always serve with a splash of cream or half and half.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

101: Toast Rounds

A wonderful basic everyone should be able to make. Heat oven to about 400. (I say about because my oven DEFINITELY does not do what I tell it, and I haven't exactley figured out how much it is off)

Lay slices of baguette or similar bread out on a metal cooling rack:

Pop into oven, checking every couple of minutes. Remember, we are just toasting the bread - crisping it and adding a bit of color. 8-10 minutes will probably be enough.

Allow to cool COMPLETELY before you store them in an airtight container.

What to do with toast rounds, you ask? top with a bit of horseradish and mayonaisse, a thin slice of roast beef and a bit of red pepper for an appetizer. OR herbed cream cheese. OR serve alongside chevre (goat cheese) with hot pepper jelly. OR serve with spinach artichoke dip. OR serve with port wine cheese spread ....

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Mussels in a garlic and shallot wine sauce

I love mussels. I love them even more when I can get a frozen package of two pounds of cooked mussels in their shell for 4.62 at the Super Walmart.

(If you are using fresh mussels, please read my instrustions and precautions here)
To heat the already cooked mussels:

Boil a pot of water, and heat the mussels in their inner plastic bag.

For the yummy, yummy sauce:

Heat pot over medium heat, add 3-4 tablespoons olice oil. Chop about 8 shallots (or 1 large onion), and add them to the pot. Chop 3-4 cloves of garlic, throw them in too.

Add a few tablespoons of butter, some salt, pepper and a cup of white wine. Add two tomatoes, diced, or one can of diced tomatoes. Then you need to add broth. I used the seafood broth concentrate from Penzeys mixed with more wine :)

Open the mussels and add them, with the liquid in their bags, to the mix.

Serve with a crusty baguette!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Chicken Corn Chowder

Chop one large onion and sautee:

Use microwave to thaw frozen corn:

Chop onions. To make a large dice, first cut off the ends and remove seeds, and then cut in two:

Force the two halves to lay flat:

Cut into strips:

Cut the strips into squares (sorry for the blurry picture)

Add the peppers (I used a mixture of green and red for visual interest) to the pot, along with chicken stock or canned chicken broth. I added cumin, cilantro, salt, pepper, and ancho chili powder. If you're not trying to be careful of the heat level, you can add hot sauce as well.

Add the chicken in the last two minutes, so it doesn't dry out. I added half of this chicken meat - so the meat of one chicken.

Serve with salsa or hot sauce for anyone who wants to add more heat.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

101: chicken stock

Sometimes I read cookbooks where the author seems to think we're still cooking on these:

Especially when they say it takes hours to make chicken stock. Yes, good chicken stock must simmer for hours. But that doesn't mean you need to WATCH it simmer! Almost everyone has a crockpot - perfect for chicken broth.

Place chicken bones from one or two chickens in a crockpot. I recently started putting only the large bones in the crockpot. It reduces the mess in straining it later. Add any or all of the following: a few whole peppercorns, a bay leaf, a quartered onion (or if you are quite frugal, save the ends of the onions you normally discard), a chopped carrot, a chopped stalk of celery.

Simmer on your lowest setting overnight. Allow to cool for an hour or more, then pour into a holding container through a strainer.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

101: how to pick a roast chicken

"picking" a chicken just means removing the meat from the bones and tearing or chopping the meat - just what you need for soup, chicken salad or casseroles. While you're at it, separate the larger bones for chicken stock.

This is just an exercise in patience - it doesn't take special tools or skill.

I normally use a plastic bag to catch the refuse - the chicken skin, the small bones, and cartlidge.

The large bones go in the crockpot to make stock. (more on that later this week)

The meat, both light and dark, get ripped into small bits.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

How to make a sticky bun LESS healthy

Just in case you are feeling guilty about all the steamed vegetables you ate this week, here's a way to atone for the damage:

Friday, October 3, 2008

101: Roast Chicken

Roasting a chicken is a good basic skill for any home cook. Roast chicken is inexpensive yet very tasty. And once you get past the first one, really pretty easy. The leftovers are great for soup, chicken salad, casseroles ...

Preheat oven to 500.

First - place your roasting pan next to the sink. Open the package of chicken in your sink. Remove the plastic bag of ... ummm ... chicken innards. I normally discard these. The days I'm feeling more ambitious I roast them, and use them for making gravy.

Place the chicken, breast side up, in the pan. I normally cook two at once because it is only 10% more work to make two at a time.

Liberally sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place one or more of the following aromatics in and around the chicken: quartered onion, peeled garlic cloves, celery stalks, quartered lemon, peeled shallots, sprigs or rosemary, fresh sage leaves ...

Put the chicken in the oven. After about 30 minutes (after the top skin starts to brown) turn the oven down - to 350 if you're pretty hungry, or 250 if you need to leave the house for a little bit. Roast to an internal temperature of 160. When you take the chicken out of the oven and let it rest it will continue to to rise in temperature in the middle enough to reach the government specified 165.

Allow the chickens to rest at least fifteen minutes before serving. If you're making the chicken specifically for something else, allow the chicken to rest for at least an hour before "picking" so you don't burn your fingers.

Shopping Nirvana

I love to grocery shop. I love food. I also try to stay on a budget even when money isn't tight. I think I now have it made.

On Saturday morning, if I wanted to, I could go to a Farmers Market, a SUPER WALMART, and Trader Joes and yet be home in about an hour! (yes, I shop fast most days)

Ffor those of you spoiled enough to be completely unimpressed with my new Super Walmart, this is probably the first one in fifty miles of here. All of our Walmarts, until this week, did not carry groceries.

So I can get produce at the Farmers Market, mass produced staples at Walmart (sugar, frozen chicken, frozen salmon, Bisquick, canned beans ...), and a number of more interesting items at Trader Joes. Yippee!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Apple Pie

A standard, but ohh so good. Preheat oven to 425.

for two pies:

four pie crusts (two boxes, or homemade) - prepare the bottom crusts in two pie plates:

10 medium or large apples, preferably of assorted varieties:



and then chop smaller.

Stir together in a large bowl:
1 cup white sugar
1/4 flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
dash each of salt, allspice, ginger and cloves

Mix apple pieces into the spice mixture.
Spoon the apple mixture into the pie crusts, add the top pie crusts, crimp the edges, and slash the top with a small knife so steam can escape.
If desired, brush with an egg wash (just a beaten egg) and sprinkle with turbinado sugar (you might know the brand name, "raw sugar")

Bake for 30 minutes at 425, reduce heat to 350, and bake another 20-30 minutes until you see the juices bubling away through the cracks. Allow to cool at least slightly before serving.